ONC initiative to ID best patient-matching practices

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT this morning announced plans to launch a collaborative patient matching initiative to "identify common denominators and best practices" used by both private health systems and federal agencies. In a Health IT Buzz blog post, Lee Stevens, policy director of the state health information exchange program, explains that the initiative will focus on two objectives:

  • Identification of common attributes that achieve high positive match rates across disparate systems, which could include fields such as name, date of birth, address, etc.
  • Defining the most effective processes to support high positive patient matching rates that use the aforementioned attributes

For the effort, the Federal Health Architecture--which includes the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, the Department of Defense, the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Social Security Administration--will partner with several other stakeholder organizations, including the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives, the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society, and the Bipartisan Policy Center. At the conclusion of the project, which will end later this year, according to Stevens, recommendations will be sent to the National Coordinator for Health IT.

Patient matching continues to linger as an issue holding back the acceleration of information exchange. In a letter to Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Administrator Marilyn Tavenner and National Coordinator for Health IT Farzad Mostashari in April, eHealth Initiative CEO Jennifer Covich Bordenick called on CMS and ONC to find a solution for patient matching.

And following the formation in March of the CommonWell Health Alliance--in which five electronic health record vendors, led by Cerner and McKesson, agreed to work together for improved interoperability--Mostashari said that patient matching for hospitals and vendors has been a "tough nut to crack across institutions." He added that CommonWell was a service attempting to meet that need.

"They creating a service that, when you register a patient and they show their driver's license, they're going to get them a voluntary, permanent identification token," he told FierceHealthIT. "This is a service that can be operated on top of whatever information exchange protocols or agreements you have."

CHIME President and CEO Russell Branzell called the new ONC initiative a "necessary, concrete step to bolster patient safety," in an statement released shortly after the project's announcement.

"Patient data-matching is a foundational component to the exchange of electronic health information--which, in turn, is a critical component for improved care coordination and quality improvement," Branzell said. "Despite years of development, no clear strategy has emerged to accurately and consistently match patient data." He added that the effort complements activities currently underway through CHIME StateNet, in which a workgroup is working to identify "technologies, implementation practices and data integrity mechanisms" to mitigate patient data-matching errors.

To learn more:
- read the Health IT Buzz post
- here's the CHIME announcement

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